Sat 29 Nov 2008
This is a little late but, Thanksgiving was formally established as an observed holiday by Abraham Lincoln. A year and a half into the civil war, on October 3, 1863, he issued this proclamation
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.
Apparently written by his Secretary of State, William Seward.
Sat 29 Nov 2008
The new Flagpole column is up, and out, as the staggering menagerie of opportunities to read my work expands to all mediums.
Tue 25 Nov 2008
A slew of articles, books, books on tape and probably even a feature film or two (!) about how to make a killing – or at least be one of the first to profit from – the new sustainable economy. Fine.
But now this.
Just as the world seemed poised to combat global warming more aggressively, the economic slump and plunging prices of coal and oil are upending plans to wean businesses and consumers from fossil fuel.
From Italy to China, the threat to jobs, profits and government tax revenues posed by the financial crisis has cast doubt on commitments to cap emissions or phase out polluting factories.
Barbara Helfferich, the European Commission spokeswoman on the environment, said, “Investing in reducing emission is more difficult to do in times of economic downturn than when you have money to spend.”
So, why is that and from where does that conventional wisdom arise? Is this case of vapors on the part of investors and governments evidence of a tepid, lukewarm commitment in the first place? If not, why not? Were they just trying to cash in on a trend and so will be the first to bail out (not that kind) on any signs of difficulty? That’s not commitment – that’s a finger-in-the-wind course adjustment whose short-term motivations have a great deal to do with the global eco-doldrums (-nomic and -logical) as anything. I thought this was what we were talking about moving away from? And in this first test, a few months in, we panic and revert. Excellent. Future generations, I salute you (and your particle masks).
Seriously though, among the major movers and shakers – those who farm the most dollars, pollute the most, corrupt the process the most and are generally willing to subvert societal goals for short-term gain on the grandest scale ( you know who you are) – there is always a race to be second when innovations pop up that could be economical if one of them figures out how. They sit back, hope no one will notice at first, castigate champions as fringe movements, seed resistance to the idea, cast aspersions on the motivations for it, campaign against it… all before slowly relenting and still doing nothing until someone with far less to gain figures out the best way forward. Your mileage may vary, but… there’s that.
This equation itself is preposterous, though only a symbol of the extent to which we’ve leveraged our futures, green or otherwise, on the whims of corporate beneficence, such that it is.
The whole thing is still a marketing campaign, though there are breakthroughs everywhere. We’ve staked the fates of future generations to the fire but our pathetic little consciences are still that of a cautious investor who will take his time in order to scuttle risk and get his. It’s a contradiction and our weakness signals the timidity at the top to bet mostly on our nature to cower. We proved ourselves capable and courageous earlier this month. Don’t be surprised that it’s already time to recommit.
Mon 24 Nov 2008
And not Tulane.
The manner in which green has been posited thus far has taken on many of the contours of a straw man, to be admired at first then scorned, pitchforked and torn apart as a sort of cathartic as we settle back into the older ways of doing, well, business. Seeing green as a business practice or strategy short of a fundamental change in the way we view productivity and the capitalist system generally is a sure way to turn it into next year’s Dyanetics, if not its Macarena.
These straw dichotomies are reflected in many news stories and talking points that influence the way people perceive business and capitalism, our choices about the future and the prospects for change, not the least of which are policy papers from the big think tanks. They don’t have to take on the role of debunking climate change or reconcile with the utter incoherence of their own views of capitalism; they merely find an unguarded field and construct a zero-sum straw argument that brilliantly evades the point and blurs the real situation in favor of their stated beliefs or political slants as if that was its only goal. For example, the trope that we are faced with a choice between either a complete lockdown of all CO2 emissions or no regulations at all. The only voices perpetuating this facile take are the ones with the most limited, and vulnerable, views on capitalism and how it works. It shouldn’t be a surprise. In the words of Hyman Roth, this is the business we’ve chosen.
But we’re going to need to choose again. We have to extend our concept of capital beyond the mere financial to include human and natural capital and take stock of how we allocate value to resources, where their costs include more than their mere extraction and all resources are valued by what would be required to replace them. This is the road not back to the stone age but a sustainable natural and social environment. It’s all here in this book I just started, Natural Capitalism. Time to make something useful with all of this straw, put it out in a patch to scare away the crows.
Fri 21 Nov 2008
Posted by editor under Uncategorized1 Comment
Isn’t that the essence of what we’ve been doing? The unconscious search for euphemism, even to the point of co-opting Franklin’s “a rising, not a setting sun,” in the service of infinite expansion and growth predicated on the psychological conundrum that we just can’t stomach anything else. Come on.
This is what the hard ceiling at the top of the bubble feels like – it looks so beautiful out there, but we keep hitting something… thump, thump… and we don’t understand it, how can this be? How can actual limits have the gall to encroach upon our reality? By what right should we have our grandest illusions crushed with such brutal impunity?
The limits have always been there, it was us who decided to weave their disguise into our destiny. Instead of using them, they will now attempt to manipulate us into a more sustainable existence. Again.
Humanity’s footprint on the earth – 21.9 hectares per person
Earth’s biological capacity – 15.7 ha./person
Sooner or later, the Earth will come back into equilibrium, where resources generated will equal resources used; the question is, how will humans be a part of this equilibrium?
Must we reacquaint ourselves with this?
Thu 20 Nov 2008
THINGS AND WHERE THEY COME FROM: that’s the sustainability context. It must be the case for both products AND processes to be situated within the closed-loop. When we talk about a car or a house being green or not, the conversations usually revolve around outputs – that is, quantifying the carbon emissions of a product over its lifetime.
But inputs must be considered. We cannot get an accurate picture of the product’s sustainability if we leave out the very beginning of that lifetime, i.e., the energy and materials required to produce it in the first place. This gets abstracted pretty quickly, though the ability to recognize something in its basic form, and relatedly, its point of origin, is a trait we strongly retain – and by its light hold firm to the right to reject certain things. We have greatly suspended it, as we easily purchase items at w*lmart or wherever without any regard for where they came from. But at the same time we (effortlessly) cast off academic-speak or haughty rationales like they don’t belong in our world. And some of them might not – but neither do many of the products we invite into our homes, some for quite lengthy stays, without any regard for the processes that brought them into being.
This is what Green means – getting acquainted with both outputs AND inputs. How much water and gasoline is required to produce a glass of orange juice?
Wed 19 Nov 2008
A recent conversation accidentally ventured into the idea of profound and utter sophistication on which much of contemporary imagery is based vs. how thin the pictures and whathaveyou actually are. Digital images generally are especially vulnerable to this, but you could, and I will, say the same for a host of supposedly higher end work that includes output by Koons, Hirst, Tracey Emin and many others. ‘Output’ seems the most charitable way to characterize their work.
In the case of the latter grouping it’s not just that their work is commercial, but that this aspect is also woven into the work itself as a part of its overall sophistication. In Actuality™, there’s really very little there – it’s trickery straight out of the tube: the blues are just blue and the fake-out itself is faked, all toward building a greater supposed sophistication that is more of an idea than the idea that would ostensibly have been alchemized onto the canvas or wood, emerging as an enigmatic indicator lacking fingerprints or guile.
The image above, from a Scientific American article on art as visual research, is an easy target in this regard, and therefore not a target at all. Though artful, I don’t consider that stuff art. Just as others might, I don’t feel the need to – and that’s not because I reserve that term as a higher-order descriptor. Digital multi-media installations and giant cast-aluminum balloon poodles let themselves off of that hook. They’re mostly commentary, and I let them roam as such. Like my own actual dog who also knows where his next meal is coming from, they won’t go far.
I bring all this up here because the lack of sophistication in our art that leaves us cold bears a striking resemblance to the scrum that is green advertising. Everything and the kitchen sink is being crammed into showing how green your printer or my cleaning product is… but the sophistication and complexity that would even attempt to explain the sustainability of either is just not there. Like it or not, sustainability is a complex issue. Can one problems be solved without directly creating another? That’s what’s called a serious conundrum, one awaiting our attention deficits on many fronts, and no amount sharks in formaldehyde or filling a city street in three feet of green jell-O is going to illuminate, much less alter, potential routes out of these situations.
It is a change in thinking – one that includes a fight against falling back into a mere nostalgia for meaning. That itself is a trap, a false-floor cop-out nullified as a enabler of the some the artfulness described above. Apathy about society’s arc masks its general lack of sophistication on major issues. It’s fashionable, sure, but at some point seeming as though you’re throwing your hands up (or seeming as though you’re doing something about the problem) is going to largely affirm the succumb the pose was meant to signify in the first place.
Tue 18 Nov 2008
According to wikipedia,
is a philosophical concept of the capacity of an agent to act in a world. The agency is considered as belonging to that agent, even if that agent represents a fictitious character, or some other non-existent entity. The capacity to act does not at first imply a specific moral dimension to the ability to make the choice to act, therefore moral agency is a distinct concept.
As we watch the slow-motion burn of the centralized economy, a few things to keep in mind.
The tide of resource scarcity is drifting us away from the island of business-as-usual for good (in both senses). Although there is a lingering, intentional misunderstanding of sustainability as just another way to make money off of money. Oh well, old habits die hard. I think the Nordic Sustainability Index might be a step in the right direction, if we are going to extrapolate greenery as another way of rating companies.
But the dissonance is rattling. At some point we’ll have to begin to reconcile what it means to be globally sustainable; that is, there’s no such thing. You can be one or the other, but not both. Not yet and not without major force projection ability. Whenever AIG(!) and UBS exhaust their advertising budgets for network television, sometime between Christmas and New Year’s, maybe the networks can devote the free holiday airtime to bringing out some philosophers to tell us how to have it all by having nothing, which may unite such formerly disparate groups such as former Citigroup employees and workers from the construction trades.
But there might be a way to put them both back to work. Now that would be green.
Fri 14 Nov 2008
The Ninth Elegy, (Die Neunte Elegie), from the Duino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke
Why, when this span of life might be fleeted away as laurel, a little darker than all surrounding green, with tiny waves on the border of every leaf (like the smile of the wind): -oh, why have to be human, and, shunning Destiny, long for Destiny?…
Not because happiness really exists, that premature profit if imminent loss. Not out of curiosity, not just to practice the heart, that could still be in the laurel….. But because being here amounts to so much, because all this Here and Now, so fleeting, seems to require us and strangely concerns us. Us the most fleeting of all. Just once, everything, only for once. Once and no more. And we, too, once. And never again. But this having been once, though only once, having been once on earth – can it ever be canceled?
And so we keep pressing on and trying to perform it, trying to contain it within our simple hands, in the more and more crowded gaze, in the speechless heart. Trying to become it. To give it to whom? We’d rather hold onto it all forever…. Alas, but the other relation, – what can be taken across? Not the art of seeing, learnt here so slowly, and nothing that’s happening here. Nothing at all. Sufferings then. Above all, the hardness of life, the long experience of love; in fact, purely untellable things. But later, under the stars, what then? th emore deeply untellable stars? For the wanderer doesn’t bring from the mountain slope a handful of earth to the valley, untellable earth, but only some word he has won, a pure word, the yellow and blue gentian. Are we, perhaps, just here for saying: House, Bridge, Fountain, Gate, Jug, Olive tree, Window, – possibly: Pillar, Tower?….. but for saying, remember, oh, for such saying as never the things themselves hoped so intensely to be. Is not the secret purpose of this sly earth, in urging a pair of lovers, just to make everything leap with ecstacy in them? Threshold: how much can it mean to two lovers, that they should be wearing their own worm threshold a little, they too, after the many before, before the many to come,…. as a matter of course!
Here is the time for the Tellable, here is its home. Speak and proclaim. More than ever the things we can live with are falling away, and their place being oustingly taken up by an imageless act. Act under crusts, that will readily split as soon as the doing within outgrows them and takes a new outline. Between the hammers lives on our heart, as between the teeth the tongue, which, nevertheless, remains the bestower of praise.
Praise the world to the Angel, not the untellable: you can’t impress him with the splendor you’ve felt; in the cosmos where he more feelingly feels you’re only a tyro. So show him some simple thing, remoulded by age after age, till it lives in our hands and eyes as a part of ourselves. Tell him things. He’ll stand more astonished; as you did beside the roper in Rome or the potter in Egypt. Show him how happy a thing can be, how guileless and ours; how even the moaning of grief purely determines on form, serves as a thing, – to escape to a bliss beyond the fiddle. These things that live on departure understand when you praise them: fleeting, they look for rescue through something in us, the most fleeting of all. Want us to change them entirely, within our visible hearts into – oh, endlessly – into ourselves! Whoever we are.
Earth, isn’t this what you want: an invisible re-arising in us? Is it nt your dream to be one day invisible? Earth! invisible! What is your urgent command, if not transformation? Earth, you darling, I will! Oh, believe me, you need your Springs no longer to win me: a single one, just one, is already more then my blood can endure. I’ve now been unspeakably yours for ages and ages. You were always right, and your holiest inspiration’s Death, that freindly Death. Look, I am living. On what? Neither childhood nor future are growing less…. Supernumerous existence wells up in my heart.
Translated by J.B. Leishman and Stephen Spender
Thu 13 Nov 2008
Posted by editor under Uncategorized1 Comment
UNESCO has unveiled this excellent atlas of hidden water around the world, in the service of providing a “legal framework for nations to manage water resources.
The increasing reliance on aquifer groundwater – because there is more of it and it tends to be less contaminated by industrial run-off – has been called the “groundwater revolution”.
But it is a revolution with worrying environmental consequences. In many parts of the world, around the Mediterranean for example, but also in the US and the Middle East, water tables are falling and aquifers are being infiltrated by seawater as agricultural practices pump water out faster than it can be replenished by rain.
This blue aspect of green weaves the scientific and political challenges into the sustainability conundrum, which is largely why it is a conundrum in the first place. After all, if we did not have limits and constraints to work within, there would be little reason to be worried about conservation or preservation. The prospect of significant resource limitations has usually meant one thing – war. UNESCO is attempting to head this off and good for them, especially because I’m not so sure that the prospect of significant resource limitations doesn’t still mean one thing. I mean we’re camped out in Mesopotamia for some reason, right?
But it’s utility of limits that I’d like to focus on; without them, we do things, like suburban sprawl, that are of course not sustainable resource-wise but they are bad for many other reasons. They are wasteful on a host of levels, from time and space dimensions to the spiritual realm in that we actually feel bad (depression, anyone?) from living in them. Go ahead and dispute this but there’s even a point of diminishing returns in which the suburban model of wanton nihilism is useful in the creation of counter-correctives like punk rock. I mean, really.
I’m just kidding and mean those dudes no ill will – they were just easy to find and their record label has a funny name. But limitations can be good and they are definitely green; working within them is an encapsulation of living against the rabid idea of freedom and exploitation toward every thing, person and place we see. Space and time constraints were indicative of every civilization that has come before us, and we should begin to realize some shared affinities with the best of the these, before we are overcome by our similarities to the most famous.
And while we’re at it, we should start looking for some of those hidden RR tracks that are buried all around us.
Next Page »